South Africa


Mosi II military exercise benefited SA, which is ‘not neutral’ in calling on Russia and Ukraine to make peace, says Modise

Mosi II military exercise benefited SA, which is ‘not neutral’ in calling on Russia and Ukraine to make peace, says Modise
Defence Minister Thandi Modise on 16 March 2021 in Cape Town, South Africa. (Photo: Gallo Images / Jeffrey Abrahams)

Defence Minister Thandi Modise shot down suggestions that South Africa undermined its global standing by hosting military exercises with Russia, whose invasion of Ukraine is in its second year. Hitting home South Africa’s sovereignty, repeatedly, things got testy.

The Mosi II military exercise with Russia and China benefited South Africa most because of exposure to various methods, was the prepped reply to the question loading since 1 March when Defence Minister Thandi Modise’s deputy asked for a postponement following her “disrupted” travels back from overseas. 

And no, no hypersonic missile was tested or fired as previous reports suggested the Russian military would do, Modise told MPs in the question slot set according to parliamentary rules on the back of Wednesday’s governance ministerial cluster Q&A slot. 

“This was an exercise amongst and between three militaries that do have agreements, that have exercised together before. These are militaries of sovereign states.” 

Western diplomats raise alarm on South Africa-Russia-China joint naval exercise during anniversary of Ukraine invasion

While the initial question can be prepped for and scripted, the follow-ups can’t be. The first follow-up went to the IFP — which asked the initial question. And IFP MP Mkhuleko Hlengwa’s follow-up hit the target: did South Africa not show “heightened insensitivity” and undermine its proclaimed neutrality by having a partner in Mosi II that “is currently invading another country”?

No, South Africa was not neutral, was Modise’s response. 

“We are not neutral at all. We took a stand as this country to go for dialogue, to go for mediation, to go for reconciliation. The head of state of this country [President Cyril Ramaphosa] continues to call on both the Russian president and the Ukrainian president. They continue to engage. We are not neutral at all. We are saying we cannot be continued to be used as Africa. We are a sovereign state,” said Modise. 

The Russian frigate Admiral Gorshkov (left) and the Chinese frigate Rizhao (598) ahead of naval drills between Russia, South Africa and China, in Richards Bay, South Africa, on 22 February 2023. (Photo: Waldo Swiegers / Bloomberg via Getty Images)

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‘We are not taking sides’

“Are we neutral when we insist on peace and peace-building? Are we neutral when we continue to call on two warring people? We are not taking sides. We are not saying this one is wrong; this one is right. 

“We are not neutral at all because precisely the people who have not seen blood spilt, have not felt the pain. Some of us still have scars, psychologically and otherwise, and therefore we would not want to see children to be exposed to what the children in Soweto, the children of Vryburg were exposed to. And that is why we insist peace talk must ensue.” 

It was the line for peace the ANC benches held a year ago in the parliamentary debate on the Russian invasion of Ukraine, when DA leader John Steenhuisen criticised South Africa’s stance as misguided, with historical loyalties dating back to the Cold War.

Read more in Daily Maverick: “Debate on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has ANC speakers doing a verbal tap dance as opposition argues government has failed the country” 

With Mosi II unfolding over the anniversary of Russia’s 24 February 2022 invasion of Ukraine, internationally critical questions were raised about South Africa facilitating Russia and China’s geopolitical access to Africa, and how South Africa’s stated human rights commitment jarred with the documented targeted destruction of civilian infrastructure in Ukraine.  

South Africa has abstained in a series of UN General Assembly votes on the Russian invasion of Ukraine

On Wednesday in the House, an ANC sweetheart question allowed Modise to return to the point of how South Africa’s soldiers had benefited from the military exercise with Russia and China, similar to previous exercises with the UK, Nigeria, Ghana, Ivory Coast and, years earlier, the US and Brazil. And then it was back to sovereignty. 

The situation was terse again when DA MP Kobus Marais asked about the international backlash and negative consequences, also for South Africa’s economy. 

No, said Modise. The US had offered Oryx helicopters and South Africa intended to fetch them. And the reason “why we are running around reestablishing and making arrangements for the South African defence industry to wake up” is to contribute to the economy. 

“What the honourable member [Marais] should be saying is that perhaps the insistence of a little corner country run by blacks, [which] insists it is sovereign, insists it will have a voice … will honour its bilateral obligations to the US, the UK, with Germany, with everybody else, but will be able to say: we are sovereign.” 

The ANC benches applauded. South Africa’s sovereignty upheld, and message sent — Mosi II “was not futile”. Finish and klaar. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Steven Cooper says:

    Not sure she has her facts correct when she says America will supply us Oryx choppers. They are a modified version of the French Puma. Please explain.

  • John Gosling says:

    Too blind to see the implications – no amount of reason will ever convince her or others. A waste of time and energy! She beats the drum of a “little Johnny one note” with not an ounce of awareness of the repercussions and implications of this stupidity!

  • Petrus Kleinhans says:

    A small sick ANC sideshow for their cadres to believe they are still a player. You may be sovereign in name but you are not economically sovereign when you are sinking away into ever-increasing mountains of debt. And let’s be clear about the company that the ANC loves to keep by association. They are associating South Africans with the Syrian regime which is decimating their own population, the Iranians who are in full suppression mode regarding women’s rights, the Russians who have been trampling over the sovereignty of Ukraine, and China whose declared intent is to take away the sovereignty of Taiwan. It would be mind-boggling if educated South Africans in 2023 want this association. The ANC politicians, we know their slogan is “I don’t care”. But the people, we actually do care.

  • Johann Olivier says:

    The ANC is clearly hanging with ‘their’ kind. Birds of a feather – and all that¯\_(ツ)_/¯

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